Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Million Mile Secrets reader, Joe, tweeted:
I was wondering what I should do with my rewards points. I have 600 JetBlue points, 1,200 IHG points, 2,000 Delta miles, and 800 Virgin America miles.
Thanks for the question, Joe!
You can’t do much with a small amount of points in different loyalty programs. But there are plenty of ways to quickly earn more rewards, so you can get Big Travel with Small Money.
I’ll help you quickly reach the number of miles & points you need for a well-deserved vacation! 🙂
Have a Plan for Your Miles & Points
You need a goal for your miles & points. So you don’t end up collecting rewards you’ll never use. Different miles & points are useful for different types of travel. You don’t want to collect lots of them and realize they don’t suit your travel style!
1. Sign-Up for Loyalty Travel Programs
It’s a good idea to sign-up for as many airline and hotel loyalty programs as you can think of, even if you don’t use the programs often. That way you’re always earning rewards! You never know when you’ll need those less popular points.
2. Set Travel Goals
Consider the travel you want to accomplish with your rewards. You don’t need to have specific destinations in mind, but analyze what kind of traveler you are. For example:
- Are you mostly interested in traveling within the US or internationally?
- Which destinations appeal to you (beach, big city, etc.)?
- Do you prefer 5-star hotels or budget hotels where you can stretch your points?
3. Decide on the Rewards You Want to Earn
For example, if you want to visit the family in Baltimore during holidays, you might want to collect Southwest points and IHG points. That’s because there are lots of IHG hotels there. And it’s easy to earn Southwest award flights! Baltimore is also an excellent place to get cheap Southwest flights!
Southwest doesn’t fly to every city though. So check their routes to makes sure they fly from your home airport, and if they can take you where you want to go. Read my post on how to decide which miles & points you should collect for your situation.
That’s because there are fantastic Hyatt hotels in Europe. And you can use American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines miles on their airline partners around the world!
For example, you can use American Airlines miles to fly on Air Berlin or Finnair, Delta miles to fly on Air France or KLM, and United Airlines miles to fly on SWISS or TAP Portugal.
Again, check your home airport and the destinations you want to visit to make sure the miles you collect can take you there!
Find out the number of miles & points it will take to make your travel goals happen. And use my guides for booking awards!
For example, when you book a JetBlue award flight, the JetBlue points you need is directly related to the cost of the ticket. The more expensive the ticket, the more points you’ll need! So:
- If you’re flying from New York to Washington, DC, you might need 2,200 JetBlue points
- If you’re flying from New York to San Francisco, you might need 7,000 JetBlue points
And if you’re booking an IHG hotel:
- The lowest category hotel will cost 10,000 IHG points
- A 5-star hotel can cost up to 60,000 IHG points
Quickly Earn Lots of Rewards
After you’ve decided which miles & points will work best for your situation, it’s time to earn them!
1. Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
If you are new to this hobby, it’s a good idea to start your credit card applications with Chase cards. That’s because Chase has some of the best travel rewards cards, but it also has strict application rules.
If you’ve opened 5 or more credit card accounts (from any bank) in the past 24 months, it’s VERY UNLIKELY Chase will approve you for several great cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Southwest Plus.
Note: There are certain small business cards that will NOT hurt your chances of being approved for other Chase cards under their strict application rules.
2. Regular Spending
Using your card for everyday spending is a major way to earn rewards!
You should put all your spending on a credit card after you sign-up, to make sure you unlock the valuable welcome bonus. After that, use the cards that will give you the most rewards for your situation. In other words, pay attention to bonus categories!
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 2X points on dining, so it’s a good card to use at restaurants. And the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back (then 1%) at supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in spending per year). Terms apply.
Note: If you earn income for performing a service, or selling goods, you could qualify for a small business card. Anything you do as an independent contractor may also count!
To qualify as a small business, you must be for-profit. And you might even be eligible if you haven’t earned a profit yet. You’ll earn rewards for things you buy anyway.
Plus, you can get extra features from your card, like car rental damage insurance, extended warranties, and purchase protection!
3. Shopping Portals
You can also earn lots of miles or points by using airline and hotel shopping portals! This is a good way to earn extra rewards for online shopping you would be doing anyway.
When you’re going to make an online purchase, first navigate to the shopping portal of your favorite loyalty program. You’ll get bonus points just for buying your item through the portal!
4. Dining Programs
Link: Rewards Network
You can earn lots of extra miles by registering your credit cards with dining rewards programs. You’ll automatically get miles in your frequent flyer account when you use your card at their 11,000+ restaurants, bars, and clubs.
5. Keep Your Eyes Open for Promotions & Targeted Offers
Loyalty promotions give you opportunities to earn lots of rewards. Some promotions are for everyone, and some are targeted (meaning the promotion is invite-only). For example, until January 12, 2017, there is a targeted offer to earn 50,000 Hilton points after you complete 4 paid nights.
Still Not Sure Which Miles & Points to Collect?
If you still aren’t sure what kind of rewards are right for you, consider earning flexible bank points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards points and AMEX Membership Rewards points. This gives you the ability to transfer to lots of different airline and hotel partners.
In reader Joe’s case, he might want to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points, because they transfer to Delta, JetBlue, and Virgin America – loyalty programs he’s already earned rewards with. So he has a head start in collecting the amount he needs for his vacation!
And remember, if you apply for AMEX small business cards, your new credit lines will NOT hurt your chances of card approvals with other Chase cards under their strict application rules.
Have travel goals before you begin collecting miles & points! You don’t want to find out later the kind of rewards you’ve been collecting doesn’t help your personal travel style.
After you know what kind of travel you want to accomplish, decide what types of miles & points will work best for you. You can rack up points quickly through:
If you still aren’t sure what points currency will work best, you can collect flexible bank points like AMEX Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points, because they transfer to lots of great loyalty programs!